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Content Strategy Digital & Social

4 Must Have Apps to Complement Instagram for Business

At IRCE Chicago this year, Instagram was touted as a great space (if it makes sense for your audience) by several e-commerce brands including Bucketfeet and Chubbies.

I’ve been a big fan of Instagram for ages, for both personal use and for use as a brand. While it provides some frustration points for brand account managers, such as the lack of clickable links and the inability to easily access multiple accounts on a single log in, the benefits far outweigh the negatives if you are able to reach your customer base and target audience on the platform.

In other words, by being steadfast the platform has done a great job limiting brand creep into its space, allowing it to maintain a greater level of authenticity.

Still, for those who do not mind the labor involved, it can be a rewarding spot for brands with a keen eye. Especially now that they have added additional editing tools that give you the ability to manipulate contrast, brightness, warmth, saturation, shadows and more!

Once you’re in the space, there are several complementary apps to stick in your Instagram for Business toolbelt:

1. Studio App for iPhone

Studio Design App for iPhone is perfect for enhancing curated content or easily developing quick content on your own from your iPhone.

It’s also great for light image manipulation. Among my favorites is using the shapes tool to flood the image and adjust the opacity. Using a white shape, this gives you a true opaque look. Using a color over a black-and-white image gives you a duo-tone Blue Note effect.

The latest version of Studio has even more options with an assortment of “packs” you can download far beyond the standard elements I found so intriguing when I first discovered the app. I am only beginning to scratch the surface here.

One way I use this is to post a filtered image on Instagram and manipulate it afterwards to share on other social platforms. For example, here’s a design I just put together commemorating my experience this past week at IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition):

IRCE Chicago 2014

There are other similar apps like Phonto, but I haven’t found them to have near the editing and creative abilities as found with Studio.

2. InstaSize

Currently, Instagram does not allow you to post an image that is not square. Enter InstaSize; this is what I use to post full-size pictures.

InstaSize does this by adding white space to the sizes of portrait shots and to the top and bottom of landscape shots.

On New Years Day this year, my wife and I joined some friends for a hike around Whistle Lake in Anacortes. I captured some great shots but didn’t want to limit them to a square and used InstaSize to make it happen:

You also cannot do an image collage on the current version of Instagram, which is popular these days. InstaSize also has this capability. I used it to showcase the sexiness of my obese cat back in December:

3. Repost

Repost is the mandatory app to share user generated content. It allows you to easily repost photos others have shared on Instagram. While I have not used it yet, I will be doing so in the next week.

One brand that continually does this is Folk Magazine (the brand behind liveauthentic.us).

4. PicFlow

PickFlow is relatively new to me. I grabbed this one at IRCE after it was recommended from my Repost app. It allows you to create a quick slideshow of images then add music. You can include transitions if you like that sort of thing.

Here’s one I created after IRCE:

It reminded me of something I saw from Martha Stewart on Instagram for National Donut Day. While I suspect that Martha Stewart’s creative folks put this together using something much more sophisticated, you could do it using an app like PicFlow if you’re good.

If you plan to add music and use this as a brand, make sure you get permission from the artist.

Those are my four picks. Follow me on Instagram, and if you have some favorite apps of your own, let me know in the comments!

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Digital & Social

5 Must-Have Apps for the Seattle to Portland (STP) Bike Ride (or Any Other Bike Tour)

These days there are apps for everything, so I sat down and compiled a brief list of five must-have apps for the upcoming Seattle to Portland (STP) Bike Ride.

This is not a new area; others have compiled bike app lists, including this The App Whisperer article that led me to choose my #1 app on this list.

There’s also this Travelling Two article which goes beyond mere bike-only apps.

I followed the path of Travelling Two, but looked to compile five very different apps that would be useful during any bike tour. My requirements: each would need to serve a notably different function and aid your tour in some fashion. Here’s the list:

1. Cyclemeter GPS Cycling & Running App

Read my original take on the Cyclemeter GPS Cycling App, and you’ll get the impression that I was a fan from the start. It’s true: I have used the app to track my location, elevation climbs, ride time and average speed since the day I purchased it, and I’ve found it very well worth the cost of a few dollars.

Cyclemeter GPS App Screenshot

My only complaint is likely the standard one: like most apps, continuous use over a long period of time will drain your battery. So, if you are able to charge while you ride either via a bike-powered phone charger (still looking for one that gets solid ratings) or a solar-powered phone charger (again, still on the hunt).

If you prefer, you could also get Map My Ride, which has received good ratings.

2. Bike Repair

While the hope is you’ll never need it, having access to a bike repair or troubleshooting app can come in handy when out on the open road. This app gives you good step-by-step instructions on how to complete various small repairs and also has a decent troubleshooting section.

In addition to my Bike Repair app, I have a small set of standard and compact bike tools housed just under my seat as a just-in-case.

Bike Repair App

I have found the photo guides most useful and have used it to research removing pedals from my old 70s Schwinn Varsity.

Bike Doctor is another app in this category.

3. Red Cross First Aid

Again, the hope here is that you won’t need this app. However, there were a few times we passed cyclists who had crashed. Being that my father is both elderly and a diabetic, it’ll be useful to reference if he gets low/high on blood sugar during the ride. If an emergency should arise, this app could come in handy.

Red Cross First Aid iPhone App

Now, during the STP it is unlikely you’ll need this app even should there be an emergency or problem as this ride is quite well supported. However, if you are on a solo or very small group tour, it’s recommended to have a general first aid app.

4. Instagram

I love Instagram. It takes you standard, often dull camera phone photos and brings them to life.

Instagram iPhone App

With Instagram, you can share your photos with your friends by connecting your account to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. A strong recommend for any trip and one I’ll be using frequently during the STP.

5. Yelp

Why use Yelp on the trip? During those overnight stays, Yelp is perfect for finding that hot local spot for a quick bite to eat, a beer after riding 100 miles, or even a hotel for the night (though for that I’d lean toward TripAdvisor or Orbitz).

Yelp iPhone App

On a recent vacation, I used Yelp frequently to seek out restaurants with gluten-free options. You can read what others say in the reviews section. Its connection with Maps allows you to get easy directions to the dining establishment, and you can add in your own two-cents about your experience when you’re done.

Categories
Digital & Social

Instagram at 100 Million

What a feat! Just the other day, Instagram announced that it has reached 100 million users.

Here’s a great quote from the article:

It’s easy to see this as an accomplishment for a company, but I think the truth is that it’s an accomplishment for our community. Now, more than ever, people are capturing the world in real-time using Instagram—sharing images from the farthest corners of the globe. What we see as a result is a world more connected and understood through photographs.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram Co-Founder and writer of those words downplays the milestone, putting it more on the users than his on ingenuity. Humble, smart, honest. But a lot has to be said about Systrom, who assisted in bringing the idea to life.

Of all the social places to follow a business, Instagram is perhaps my favorite. It capitalizes on putting a human touch to a company, connecting its products with its fans:

I may only go to Starbucks about once a month, but I love their brand even more thanks to Instagram. They occasionally put a fun twist on product placement:

Starbucks on Instagram

The same goes for Mission Bicycle. As an avid biker, I may not own one of their bicycles, but I aspire to one day park a Mission in my garage:

Mission Bicycle on Instagram

How can a business capitalize on the image-centric nature of today’s social world using Instagram? It can come in many ways, depending on the ultimate goal for being there and how it relates to the company’s overarching business and marketing goals. Used consistently, Instagram can be a great way to share a side of the business that may not often be seen, or portray the business and its customers in a light that is warm and endearing.

One brand that does this well is General Electric (disclaimer: I am a GE stockholder). Their photos tend to be of highly technical heavy machinery, of jet engines and wind turbines, of unknown industrial and mechanical manufacturing plants. Not something you’d expect to be interesting or amazing when photographed with a camera-phone, but put through the lens of Instagram the colors pop and life begins to emerge from machinery that would otherwise seem ominous:

General Electric on Instagram

Have you used Instagram for your business? If so, do please share. And feel free to follow me on Instagram while you’re at it!